Setting Boundaries with Your Virtual Assistant Clients

Look, no one enjoys having to set boundaries. It isn’t fun. It isn’t comfortable. But, it’s necessary. With many different relationships in one’s life. But it’s very much necessary with the Virtual Assistant/Client relationship.

Let me paint you a little picture here…Sarah lands her first client. She’s so thankful and ecstatic and happy to have a client. She hasn’t really thought out all her policies and procedures. She’s a new VA, so she doesn’t know that she needs to. After a week or so, Sarah’s client, let’s call her Jessica, starts to be very demanding. She messages Sarah at all hours, constantly. If Sarah doesn’t answer an email or a Facebook message immediately, Jessica is texting and calling.

She gives Sarah projects and tasks and expects them to be done asap. She doesn’t respect weekends or family time. She expects Sarah to be on the job and on call at all times, ready to see to her every need and whim.

What happens? Sarah becomes stressed out, frustrated, and starts to dread her job. She became a Virtual Assistant to have the freedom and flexibility to work around her family schedule and kids. But now, she feels like she’s “on duty” every minute. And if she can’t answer or do something immediately, she’s feeling guilty and upset.

Is this what the dream is? Is this what becoming a Virtual Assistant was supposed to be? NO!

But this is what happens all too often. Because we don’t set boundaries up front with clients. And then, we don’t enforce those boundaries later on in the relationship. But how do you do that? Well, here are some practical tips to do so…

  1. Make it clear in your contract and in your policies and procedures when your normal business hours are.
  2. Also make it clear that you will respond to communication within so many hours. For instance, my contract states within 24 hours during the work week.
  3. Give your client only two means of communication. Email and a form of communication for quicker responses. For instance, depending on the client, I’ll use Slack of Voxer. I make it clear that for anything having to do with projects of tasks, a client needs to either email it or add it to Asana. If they just have a question, they can contact me via Slack or Voxer. But the same working hours and 24 rule applies to that as well. I make it a rule to never give out my personal phone number or to friend clients on Facebook until we’ve had a working relationship for a very long time.
  4. Make your turnaround time clear up front and in your contract. Let clients know that you require at least 24 hours notice for tasks requiring 2 hours or less, and longer for tasks requiring more time.

Having these rules and expectations clear up front can usually keep issues from occuring. But, if they occur anyway, here is a good blueprint for how to handle them…

  1. Gently remind the client in an email of your policies, procedures, and the contract that they signed. Be sure to read over the email twice before sending, because you want to be sure that no hostility is coming through. Be clear, and be firm, but be kind and professional.
  2. Consider that the first warning. If they continue to abuse your relationship and disregard your policies and procedures, you need to decide if it’s best to let the go. I know this can be difficult, but ultimately, this is your business and your mental and emotional health at stake.
  3. Should you decide to let them go, reread your contract. Be sure to follow it as it pertains to ending a client relationship. If you have in your contract that you have to give 14 days notice, do so. Some clients may choose to end the relationship right there, if so, let them.
  4. Be courteous and professional at all times. And always keep all email documentation in the event that you may need it. For instance, if a client gets disgruntled over ending the relationship, and doesn’t want to pay your invoice, you can use the contract and all email documentation to prove to your payment system that you are owed the money. Or handle it with an attorney depending on the amount they owe. Either way, always cover your bases.

Dealing with clients who push past boundaries is never fun, and hopefully you’ll never be in that situation. But if you are, now you can be prepared to do so. If you’re a new Virtual Assistant and are looking for resources to help you handle your contracts, policies and procedures, and other onboarding tasks, check out the Virtually Scale VA Tool Kit. 

How to Structure Your Pricing as a Virtual Assistant

Are you a Virtual Assistant or aspiring Virtual Assistant, and are struggling with how to structure your pricing? Trust me, nearly every VA struggles with that! And as a VA myself, I have done pretty much every pricing structure that there is. Because of that, I want to help you learn the pros and cons to each of the structures before you make your decision.

First, you have hourly pricing. Basically, you set your hourly rate, and when you sign on new clients, they agree to pay your hourly rate. Typically what that looks like is you invoice them weekly for the hours you worked for them. I initially started out with this structure. And it has it’s pros and it’s cons for sure. I actually still have a client that I use this structure with, because she was one of my first clients, and we have a great relationship and I’m hesitant to make changes.

Each week, I invoice her via PayPal for the hours I worked for her, and attach a PDF of that week’s timesheet. Just a little side note, I track time for clients using Toggl, and transfer at the end of the day or every few days, to a Google Sheet that I have set up for each client. I share viewing capabilities with each client at the beginning of our working relationship as well, so that they can track how much time I’m working on their tasks.

The pro to this is pretty much only that some clients prefer this method, because it’s less scary than purchasing a large portion of hours up front. But the cons are several. Mainly the time it takes you as the contractor to invoice them each week. It also means you won’t have a definite idea of  how much work you’ll need to do that week for that client. It can vary. The client that I still use this structure with, I do so because after so long of working together, I have a pretty good idea of how much time I’ll need to put in on her tasks and projects each week. But that’s only because we’ve been working together for so long.

The second option you have is project pricing. You can structure your pricing so that you charge per project. For instance, if you want to design websites, you can charge flat project fees for a project. This can be a great structure for certain services, but it’s not ideal if you offer a variety of services or are a general administrative VA. I have offered this structure for a very few clients, typically clients who need me to simply set up a membership or course on New Kajabi. Those clients didn’t need long term VA services, but rather, needed projects accomplished that they either didn’t know how to do, or didn’t have the time to do. In that case, I figured up what they needed done, and how much time it would take me, and I used my hourly rate to determine the entire project amount. And then of course, adjusted my contract accordingly.

This option is perfectly fine when you’re doing short term work for a client in the form of a project. It isn’t ideal for any other scenario.

And the third option, my favorite and personal recommendation, is hourly packaging pricing. Here, you choose packages based on amounts of hours. I personally offer 10, 20, 30, 40 and 60 hour packages. My clients run the spectrum on the different packages. I have several clients at 40, and a few at 10, and a few in between. Very few ever choose 60. I simply offer it just in case someone might want it. At this point in my business though, I couldn’t accommodate a new client needing 60 hours a week.

Package pricing gives you several pros. First is that you know exactly how many hours you need to plan for, for each client. There is no guessing. Therefore you can plan your time and manage your time accordingly. You aren’t wondering how much time you’ll need to spend or how much money you’ll be making.

Which brings me to the second pro, you know exactly what your income will be. Which is highly important, because no one wants to be guessing at what they’ll be making each month.

It also means you are only invoicing that client once or twice a month. Some VA’s choose to charge up front for the entire package each month. I choose to invoice for 50% of the package price on the beginning of the  month, and the remaining 50% at the end of the month. So I’m invoicing twice instead of four to five times, which is saving me time. And invoicing time isn’t billable, so it’s wasted time basically.

You don’t have to choose one or all of these options. It depends on what feels right for you. And chances are, you’ll adjust as your business grows and change along the way. And that’s fine! You’ll learn and grow right along with your VA business. But it’s important to identify how you’ll charge before you start trying to land clients. Otherwise, you’re causing yourself stress and overwhelm for no reason. Have your pricing structure set up and ready to go before you start the discovery process with that first client.

And if you aren’t sure how to do that, then my 5 Step Framework to Jump Start Your VA Biz challenge is definitely for you. You can find out more information and enroll for that by clicking here. It’s free and packaged full of great content to get your Virtual Assistant business up and running quickly.

How to Find Clients as a Virtual Assistant

So you’ve decided that you want to embark on a career as a Virtual Assistant. You have marketable skills, a laptop, and a great internet provider. Now what? Clients! Without clients as a Virtual Assistant, you’re basically just going to sit there twiddling your thumbs, and more importantly, not making any money!

But how do you find clients? That’s the million dollar question asked by every VA as they’re starting out. I know it was for me! And it’s the question I’m asked most frequently by my own VA students.

You have a few options, and we’ll explore each one of them here.

First, UpWork. While UpWork has it’s drawbacks, for a brand new VA, it can be a great starting point. But there are a few things to keep in mind when getting started on UpWork.

  • Scams are abundant. You have to be extra vigilant when submitting proposals. Only go for the clients whose payment method is verified, and read their job proposals carefully. If they state they are in the US, but the time zone shows differently, that’s a red flag.
  • Take the tests. Having scores and tests under your belt as  a newbie is only helpful.
  • Stay on UpWork until you’re comfortable with the client. If they immediately want you to go off the platform for communication or payment, RUN.

Second is networking in Facebook groups. This is definitely my favorite, and my most profitable avenue as a VA myself. Once you’ve identified your niche, find Facebook groups where your ideal client will hang out. But there are a few tips to keep in mind here as well.

  • Offer value. Don’t immediately join the group and start spamming for clients. Spend ten to fifteen minutes a day in groups, and comment with valuable information on posts that you can help with.
  • Follow the rules. Be sure to read the rules of the group, and follow them. Otherwise, you’ll get kicked out, and that isn’t helpful at all.
  • Pay close attention to potential client’s posts. If they post asking for help or even for a VA directly, read their posts closely. Many will ask you to email them, or private message them. If you do the opposite, they’ll know you can’t follow directions.

And lastly, look around your local area. There are many opportunities for Virtual Assistant work right in your community. Reach out with proposals to local small business owners. Many of them may not be able to afford full time, in office help, but would welcome part time VA help. Craft your proposal carefully and individualize it to that specific business.

If your superstar skill is accounting, individualize the proposal to let them know how you can help them with their accounting and tax needs. If you’re a social media manager, reach out and let them know you can assist with social media needs. But do your research first. Be sure you know what their business is, the name of the owner, and any pain points they may have. Don’t propose blindly.

If you’re struggling with finding clients, I invite you to join my 5 Step Framework to Jump Start Your VA Biz. You’ll learn about landing clients and much more! You can join by clicking here. 

How to Onboard a New Virtual Assistant Client

You’re ready to set up shop as a Virtual Assistant, and you’ve reached out to potential clients. But now what? This is where it can get really confusing for a new Virtual Assistant, and this is where it can make or break a new client relationship.

What do you say? What do you do? How do you handle it? 

Those are all legitimate questions. And I’m here to answer and explain in depth each and everyone of them. 

Let’s begin with the initial contact, you reaching out to a new potential client.

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you do so…

  1. Pay close attention to the potential client’s message. If you’re responding to a social media post or using a service, be sure to read the entire thing and pay attention to every detail. Oftentimes, potential clients will include specific instructions on how to contact them, as well as specific keywords to include. If you fail to do this, you’re showing them that you don’t fully read directions nor comprehend them.
  2. Make yourself memorable. Don’t use subject lines or opening lines that every other VA is going to us. Unless they’ve asked for a specific subject line or opening phrase, using things like “VA Application” or “Response to your VA Opportunity” won’t put you in the forefront of their mind. Instead, use fun and catchy titles. For instance, “I’m the VA You’re Looking For” or “I’m Your Girl” stand out in a sea of other subject lines.
  3. Take your time. Grammar errors and spelling errors look horrible to a potential new client. Don’t get so excited that you type without thinking. Take your time to type out that initial communication. Then take a few more minutes and proofread everything you wrote TWICE before hitting send. Trust me, this will make all the difference. A potential client will discount you quickly if they read that first email and it’s full of spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. 

Once you’ve reached out to the potential new client, and they’ve responded, it’s time to set up a Discovery Call. I recommend Zoom for those calls. Now, here you have two options. You can go back and forth via messaging or email to nail down a date and time, or you can present a more professional appearance and use a scheduling service. I recommend Acuity or Calendly

Using either of these services, you’re able to input your availability, set up specific types of calls, add your Zoom link, and have a specific link to send to potential new clients so that they’re able to schedule a call at their convenience. And, without the hassle of the back and forth to determine a mutually good date and time.

But how do you prepare for the Discovery Call? Great question. And many, many new VA’s have that question as well. Here are some tips to get you prepared…

  1. Begin by setting up your Zoom account well in advance of your first Discovery Call.
  2. Practice the entire process with a friend or family member.
  3. Be sure you’re very familiar with the ins and outs of the platform before scheduling a call with a potential client.
  4. Run through a mock interview, either with yourself, or a friend.
  5. Prepare answers to potential questions that you may be asked, about your experience, your rates, the platforms you are knowledgeable in, and your past and present clients.

So you’ve got Zoom figured out, and you have that Discovery Call scheduled, but what comes next? Before you even have that call, you need to have your onboarding documents and process down to perfection. Otherwise, you’ll be in a tizzy trying to figure it out and get it set up after the call, while the client is waiting on it all.

Here’s a list of what you should have already in place before doing a Discovery Call:

  1. Your contract. You absolutely should never work with a client, without a contract signed by both parties. A contract protects you, sets expectations, and also protects your client.
  2. A Welcome Packet. Your Welcome Packet should include your policies and procedures, your rates and packages, a nice letter to your client, and a Client Information sheet for the client to fill out.
  3. Your invoicing system and software. You need to have your system already in place, and your invoice template set up before that Discovery call. Having a system in place takes away the stress of trying to do it quickly. And you should never start work as a VA without procuring at least 50% of the payment ahead of time.
  4. Your Client Management System. You need to have a system in place to track the onboarding of new clients, BEFORE beginning to onboard them. Whether it be through Trello, Asana, Dubsado or something similar, it must be in place prior to that Discovery Call. 

I fully understand and recognize that this process can be confusing and overwhelming. I once was a new VA myself. If you’re struggling with creating your onboarding documents, you’ll find the Virtually Scale Tool Kit here, where it’s all created for you and ready for you to simply put in the specifics that pertain to you and your business.

If you’re struggling with the actual Discovery call or the systems, you can find more information in the videos section of the Virtually Scale Facebook page.